The New Octomore 7.4

April 14, 2016
Nick Taylor

The new Octomore 7.4 just hit the market and it is the best Octomore I’ve had so far. Adam Hannett, the new master distiller at Bruichladdich, has his John Hancock on a bottling for the first time and well… bravo, he has set the bar very high for future releases.

Aside from being the first bottling credited to Hannett instead of Jim McEwan, this Octomore is quite different from previous expressions. First, it is cask strength at 61.2% ABV. It is the same malt as the Octomore 6.1. Therefore the phenol content is 167ppm, but it was aged for seven years instead of five.

The 7.4’s casking is particularly unique. 25% of the whisky spent all seven years in French virgin oak. The other 75% spent three years in first-fill bourbon casks then was transferred to virgin oak for two years and then transferred again to fresh first-fill bourbon casks for the remaining two years.

The question remains, why transfer the whisky back and forth from ex-bourbon casks to virgin oak casks? They wanted to increase the rate at which the whisky took on wood character. The wood influence imparted by the cask is far greater in the earlier years of the aging process, resulting in the darkest Octomore I can remember.

I’m not sure which is more surprising the gentleness of the smoke or of the alcohol. I was blown away by this Octomore’s approachability. Of course the Octomore was made because Jim McCewan, former master distiller and whisky legend, was sick of having his masculinity questioned after he released the first Bruichladdich as an unpeated Islay scotch. Thumbing his nose at the industry, McCewan made the peatiest whisky in history. The Octomore developed a cult following as a result, but made note-worthy progress over the years. What started as a blunt-force instrument, a smoky sledgehammer, Thor’s flaming hammer, is now an elegant, smoky wildebeest.

Those of you looking for a dram of liquid fire won’t be disappointed. It is still a big boy whisky but Hannett has managed to pull lovely malty, grilled corn-on-the-cob notes from the fire. On the very front of the palate you get a burst of powdered sugar and cooked nutmeg. The alcohol is all on the front of the palate with very little burn on the finish. Hints of cherry and cured meat waft after you add a drop of water and a candied bacon note comes through on the palate.

This whisky is undoubtedly a bull in a china shop but they’ve managed to teach the bull not to break anything.

bull-in-a-china-shop

This Octomore is relatively limited in production. 12,000 bottles produced worldwide. Of those 12,000 a little over 1,300 made it to the United States. To all of you Massachusetts whisky drinkers’ credit, 40 six-packs made it into the state. This allocated whisky comes in at $239.99. If you would like to buy it order here.